The first peony I ever grew was ‘Red Charm’. When I moved house I had to replace it because I couldn’t live without it. You can see why:
It is the first peony to flower in my garden, so always gets a lot of attention. Here it is, cocking it’s head, showing off its jagged petaloids.
It is the deepest red of all my peonies, with just a hint of cherry lipgloss.
If I were to pick a flower, I would need two hands to hold it.
I think it has grown since this photo was taken.
Over the next couple of weeks, the outer petals will flatten and the inner petaloids will arch up into a backbend. They rise, and keep on rising, like triumphant ruby flames.
This photo is from last year, showing it at the height of conflagration.
Herbaceous peonies are incredibly easy to grow. You plant the bare-root in winter, just making sure the growing tips are no more than 5cm below the surface of the soil. Planting too deeply is the most common reason why a peony fails to flower. If you think you have done this, dig it up, add a bit of soil to the bottom of the hole, and replant it.
Some of the taller peonies need support: one cane with twine holding all the stems halfway up will do the trick, or a half-circle wire support.
Then in late Autumn, remove all foliage. You can add a mulch of compost or well-rotted manure, but move it away from the centre, as it can cause the crown to rot. No one wants a rotten crown. I make a little ring around mine, with a mulch-free exclusion-zone at the centre.
And that is all the care they need.
They will reward you with one or two blooms the first year, three or four the second, and ever-increasing numbers for the next fifty years.
My favourite supplier of peonies is Claire Austin Hardy Plants.
Kelways also have a very good collection, and a wonderful glamorous website, but are slightly more expensive.
Come back for more peonies over the next week or two – I have lots more on their way. Like this one, ‘Coral Charm’, maybe a couple of days away!
My aim on this site is to share the sense of wonder I get from gardening and being outdoors.
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